Apple reveals transformative changes to the iPhone and its app functionality, marking a significant departure from its traditional operating model since the device’s inception.
After compelling Apple to adopt USB Type-C charging port, the EU has succeeded in compelling the $2.98 trillion net worth tech company to restructure its ecosystem.
For the first time, Apple is set to allow users to download apps from sources beyond its App Store, introducing a monumental shift in its control over iOS, the operating system powering the iPhone. Additionally, developers will now have the freedom to offer alternative payment methods within their apps, breaking away from Apple’s exclusive payment platform.
These changes imply that external companies can establish their own competing app marketplaces, potentially hosting content prohibited by Apple, such as pornography. In essence, iPhone users gain the ability to access rival app markets, unlocking a plethora of apps previously unavailable, and make payments using non-Apple-controlled systems for the first time.
The alterations extend to game streaming services, including previously banned platforms like Xbox Cloud Gaming, opening up new possibilities for users worldwide. While the majority of modifications apply to the European Union, global changes to game distribution will take effect universally.
Apple’s decision to implement these changes is a response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which aims to curb the dominance of large tech companies and foster competition. Despite Apple’s longstanding resistance to these regulations, the company has acknowledged the need to adapt to the evolving digital landscape.
Apple has consistently argued that limiting app downloads to the App Store ensures iPhone security by preventing malware and other threats. Similarly, the exclusive use of Apple’s payment platform is deemed a safeguard against fraud. The company contends that expanding payment and app download options introduces new avenues for security threats, fraud, scams, and harmful content, despite implementing measures to mitigate these risks.
Supporters of the legislation assert that it merely provides users with more choices, allowing them to stick with the existing App Store if convinced by Apple’s security arguments. However, Apple argues that users may be compelled to use alternative marketplaces, potentially compromising their trust in secure distribution mechanisms.
Developers can begin utilizing the new tools with the release of the iOS 17.4 beta, with the changes set to reach users in the 27 EU countries (excluding the UK) upon the full release in March. The EU’s Digital Markets Act, in force since last year, requires compliance by March 6, with a focus on major tech companies and their core platform services.
While Apple maintains its commitment to ensuring fair competition and compliance with the new regulations, the modifications come with new business terms for developers, impacting the commissions Apple receives from app sales. Apple asserts that over 99% of developers will experience the same fees or reduced costs under the new structure.
While many changes are region-specific, Apple has globally adjusted its approach to game distribution. The acceptance of streaming games, a reversal of the previous ban on services like Xbox Cloud Gaming, is a reflection of feedback from the developer community, demonstrating Apple’s responsiveness to industry dynamics.
Written by: Noel Nortei